Majority of Syria’s ISIS terrorists are Russian nationals & preparing to bring fight home, Moscow experts say



2014/09/17 • Archive

Article by: Paul A. Goble

ISIS, led by militants from former Soviet republics are preparing to attack in Russia’s Muslim regions, Moscow experts say.

up to 80 percent of ISIS groups in Syria are former residents of Russia’s North Caucasus & Middle Volga republics

Many of the leaders of the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria come from Muslim regions of the Russian Federation, and they plan to launch attacks in its regions, coming in via Afghanistan and Central Asia rather than the more direct but more difficult route across Turkey and Iran, according to Moscow experts.

Both the danger of such new jihadist attacks in Russia and this route help to explain, commentator Ruslan Gorevoy says in surveying this expert community, why Moscow has been devoting so much attention to improving security in Central Asia in the hopes of stopping ISIS militants there.

ISIS has two centers of power, Gorevoy says, the main Iraqi one and the shadowy Syrian one. Most reportage has focused on the former and largely ignored the latter. “Why? Because almost all of its leadership without exception are people from the Soviet Union,” who “speak Russian,” and who know “about all our realities.”

The ethnic makeup of Russia's Caucasus region and other former Soviet states

The ethnic makeup of Russia’s Caucasus region and other former Soviet states

[He says that] according to the Kurdistan-24 news agency, “up to 80 percent of ISIS groups in Syria are former residents of the North Caucasus and the republics of the Middle Volga.” The remaining 20 percent, it says, “are former citizens of the Soviet republics of Central Asia. These people speak Russian more often than Arabic among themselves.”

The Central Asian countries have not been able to establish tight control over their borders, even when Moscow has provided as it has in the case of Tajikistan military units. As a result, terrorists can cross them easily and with impunity, and that is the first stage in a campaign against Russia itself, Gorevoy suggests.

He points with alarm to the recent “loss” in Kazakhstan of a 50 kilogram container of Cesium 137, something officials have tried to minimize but in fact likely is the work of terrorists, including those with links to ISIS. As a result, the commentator says, ISIS is approaching Russia’s borders and with nuclear bomb-making materials.

A major reason for the large number of Central Asians and North Caucasians in ISIS, he continues, is that the group pays well. Kyrgyz members are paid on the order of 5,000 US dollars a month, more than twice what gastarbeiters from that Central Asian country could earn in Moscow or other Russian cities.

Russia's muslim regions along the Volga

Russia’s muslim regions along the Volga

When they return home, he continues, at least some of these people are prepared to continue the fight for ISIS as recent arrests and seizures of arms in Kyrgyzstan demonstate.

Russian officials have put on a brave face about this, with Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov saying that he can take care of any ISIS operatives who may appear. But experts are less sure about that, at least over the longer term.

Denis Maltsev, a senior researcher at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, says that ISIS does not threaten Russia directly at present but that it does threaten to destabilize Russia’s neighbors. And that in turn means, he concludes, that the terrorist threat inside Russia will grow. “It is only a question of time.”

[Editor’s note: The following video of Russian-speaking ISIS members is courtesy of]

Edited by: Mat Babiak
Source: Window on Eurasia

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  • Shirley Damazo

    At last an article stating this. ISIS is linked to Putler and Russian fighters.

    • jmundstuk

      Shirley, you’ve heard about this? What other sources of info could you share?

      • LorCanada

        I’m wondering about the ISIS fanatics with a British accent?

        • Mat

          That was in Iraq

      • Shirley Damazo

        It has been extensively discussed when it all was disclosed and a few people were interested on this issue. I’d need to check the sources. The main point was that Putin was sponsoring ISIS together with Syrian president. Putin is also interested in controling oil production for the reasons we know.

  • Jim

    It was reported that the container of lost Cs-137 was recovered.

  • Brent

    The chickens, I mean “CHECHENS”, will come home to roost…..

    • LorCanada

      ;- )

  • Murf

    Well Vlad; ye reaps as ye sows.

  • Anna Palagina

    Of course Ramzan says he can control them. They are his :)

  • Marcello Sulsenti

    Mr. Putin, come on and fight them if you really have balls.

    • Lyngvyst

      He will not fight them, he is happy they are fighting in oil rich regions, slowing down the decline of oil price. He is happy there is fighting in Iraq, Syria, Libya as his oil is then more important than it would be under more competition from Iraq or Libya. It makes sense that he may have sent them (via middlemen). Half of his budget depends on oil. Do you think he would like to eliminate them? I think he would love a protracted war everywhere where oil is. And – it is a distraction from what he does in Ukraine, he knows the West has no stregth to handle everything at once… And he is happy that IS are under attack and not Assad the Other Killer with Russian Base. He may have created IS via Assad who desperately needed to create an uglier opposition than FSA so he released some islamists etc. Secret op? After Crimea annexation, many Russian ships were sent “somewhere” with “something”.

  • paul123456

    Allah very healthy description in the beginning of Koran is like – Everything, everything we may perceive.

    Now, an unproven belief of extremely undefined or interpreted term
    may and will be dangerous. I have my believes too, like ‘do not cross a road in front of a big truck’. I follow my believes religiously.
    Are they?